Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Diplomacy

John Kerry and the UN are Right about Israeli Settlements

The UN Security Council has passed Resolution 2334 by a vote of 14 to zero, with the United States choosing to abstain rather than exercise its veto. The resolution condemns Israel’s construction of settlements within the occupied Palestinian territories. The language is uncharacteristically blunt:

the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace

The 14 member states who voted in favor of the resolution include the remaining permanent members (Britain, France, Russia, and China) and all of the current non-permanent members (Angola, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Venezuela). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the resolution is “skewed against Israel” and Donald Trump agreed, tweeting:

But both Trump and Netanyahu are mistaken–not only is Resolution 2334 not skewed against Israel, it is in Israel’s interest to abide by the resolution and abandon its settlements. Here’s why.

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What the Arab Spring Teaches Us About Armed Rebellion

Horrible things have been happening to Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Syria’s largest city. Large parts of the old city has been destroyed, though not for the first time–the city was sacked as recently as 1440 by Tamerlane, a vicious Mongol conqueror who is estimated to have killed 5% of the world’s people. All told, the Syrian Civil War has killed more than 270,000 people, creating more than 4 million refugees and displacing 7.6 million. These high losses have not resulted in any constructive political change in Syria–Bashar al-Assad’s faction remains the strongest in the country. The conflict has made no one better off aside from the Islamic State, which has used the chaos to carve out a slice of territory for itself:

Syria and Iraq 5 May 2016

The Syrian government is red, the Iraqi government is purple, the rebels are green, Islamic State is black, and the Kurds are orange. When the Syrian Civil War started, a lot of people in the west were excited by the possibility of overthrowing the Assad regime and creating a new democracy in the Middle East. Instead we have a bloody power vacuum filled in which the only winners are terrorist organizations. What’s interesting about this is that Syria is not an isolated case–the Arab Spring revolutions that turned violent all went so badly, while those that remained peaceful sometimes achieved meaningful results.

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No, We Should Not Arm Ukraine

In a recent report titled Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do, the Brookings Institution in conjunction with the Atlantic Council and the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs advise NATO to drastically increase its arms commitment to Ukraine. The report has fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the conflict in Ukraine and has consequently given governments advice that is both irrelevant and terrible. Here’s why.

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Does the US/China Emissions Deal Make a Difference?

Recently the United States and China agreed to a carbon emissions reduction deal to combat global warming. Under the terms of the deal, the US agrees to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2025, while China agrees to reach peak emissions by 2030, and to generate 20% of its energy with zero-emissions technology by that year. Diplomacy is notoriously difficult, and consequently any deal on climate change heartens those who watch international politics. But are these emissions reductions sufficient to avert the worst of what global warming potentially has to offer? I’m not seeing much coverage of the deal from a climate science perspective, so I decided to look into it.

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It’s Time to Cut a Deal with Putin

It was beginning to look as though things might be winding down in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin had the duma revoke his government’s permission to intervene directly in the country, and the pro-Russian rebels have been beating a swift retreat. But since Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in Ukraine, western countries have unleashed a new round of sanctions. Russia has retaliated with sanctions of its own against the west, but in a far more worrisome move, reports have it that Russia is once again amassing troops on the border with Ukraine. To minimize the risk of further escalation, it is now time for the west to offer Putin a deal.

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